The Digital States Survey, conducted every two years by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), evaluates the IT practices of all 50 states, and assigns letter grades based on achievements in a number of technology-related service areas. CDG is the research and advisory division of e.Republic, the parent company of Government Technology.
Announced in early October, awardees were formally recognized on Oct. 21 at the NASCIO (National Association of State Chief Information Officers) conference in San Diego. At the top of the list were Michigan and Utah, each earning A grades. Six other states – Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia – received a grade of A-. In addition, eight Best Practice categories recognized outstanding state achievements using technology. For complete coverage of each state’s grade and more specific details on the survey’s evaluation criteria, read the original story here.
This year’s survey results reveal that overall state technology practices are progressing steadily, with 20 states receiving the same grade they received in 2010. While 18 states received a lower grade in 2012 versus 2010, 12 states’ grades are higher in the current survey. Indiana and Florida are the two states whose current grades demonstrate the greatest change from two years ago.
While most states submitted responses to a series of survey questions, those states that did not submit information were also graded for the survey. These states were evaluated based on interviews and various other interactions with CDG staff throughout the survey period. Researchers, executives and senior fellows from the Center for Digital Government were involved in the comprehensive evaluation process that resulted in each state’s grade.
Most improved: Indiana
Indiana has made some impressive gains over the last two years, boosting the state's grade in the Digital States Survey from a C- in 2010 to a B+ in 2012. Indiana made the largest jump of any state in the past two years.
Indiana CIO Brian Arrowood explained that many of the initiatives contributing to the state's "most improved" status actually began a few years ago. He credits statewide IT consolidation and a central financial management system with positioning the state for success in its performance-based transparency endeavors.
"We’re certainly very proud of the improvement [from the previous survey], but from a technology standpoint, the things that we were able to deliver were enabled by previous foundational blocks that were put in," Arrowood said.
Information technology services are consolidated across the state of Indiana, where enterprise IT offerings are deployed to all 92 executive branch agencies, courts and many elected officials. Performance measures have been implemented for every executive branch agency in Indiana, reported quarterly through a dashboard managed by the Office of Technology. Demonstrating sound fiscal principles, the state closed its fiscal year with a budget surplus. With its ledgers solidly in the black, the state will hand out taxpayer refunds, lessen its debt payback obligations and contribute funds to its state pension. A state transparency portal, consistently recognized by open government groups, publicizes budget and contract information, and allows citizens to track agency performance over time. The state operates 200 websites, including more than 10 multiagency portals.
Looking ahead, Arrowood feels that Indiana is poised to take advantage of new IT opportunities that make financial and business sense for the state. "We want to continue to be in a position to have interchangeable parts, flexible design in our infrastructure as well as our application portfolio so that everything will work well together," he said.
Leadership vacuum explains biggest drop for Florida
Suffering the largest descent reflected in this year’s Digital States Survey is Florida, whose B- in 2010 became a D in 2012. Emphasizing the fact that they did not provide a response to the 2012 survey, Florida officials declined to comment on their grade.
As covered in a recent article by Government Technology, the state’s Agency for Enterprise Information Technology (AEIT) was defunded effective July 1, 2012. Citing performance that rendered the agency unable to effectively provide statewide IT leadership, a legislative proposal sought to replace the AEIT. A more focused "Agency for State Technology" was envisioned with narrower duties related to the state’s data consolidation efforts. While the bill received legislative approval, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill, indicating support for the direction of the now defunct AEIT. The move left Florida without statewide IT leadership, and former state CIO David Taylor and his staff were reassigned to other state agencies. The governor and Legislature are expected to reconvene to develop a viable strategy for statewide IT in the next legislative session, which begins in 2013.
Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.